Ford Motor Co. is suing Pep Boys-Manny, Moe & Jack after the retailer tried to block Ford's plans to use the Futura name-a trademarked brand name for private label tires sold by Pep Boys-for the 2005 vehicle model year.
Ford filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Detroit. That was in response to a July 9 cease-and-desist letter Philadelphia-based Pep Boys sent to Ford stating the auto maker was infringing on the company's rights to use the Futura name after Ford applied to register the Futura marque for use with automobiles. Pep Boys is concerned the name's use will cause confusion in the marketplace, according to a Ford spokeswoman.
The letter ``threatens Ford with liability'' for breach of a 1995 agreement between the two companies in which Ford agreed not to use the Futura name on tires or certain aftermarket parts, according to the lawsuit. At that time, Pep Boys had filed an opposition to Ford's application to use the Futura marque in connection with aftermarket parts such as badges and insignias.
Ford claims the 1995 agreement is not binding on its use of the marque for cars since the contract makes no mention or objection to that issue.
The auto maker is suing for damages to be determined at trial and for attorneys' costs.
Pep Boys declined to comment on the pending litigation.
The Ford spokeswoman pointed out that Ford has manufactured the Futura marque for decades, going back to 1955 when it was introduced as a concept car. She said the name never went away, but only was temporarily discontinued. Ford currently sells Futura sedans in Australia.
``This is no different than our Continental vehicles and Continental tires or Mustang vehicles and Mustang planes,'' she said. ``We don't know why Pep Boys took this action, but we were forced to defend ourselves and will take any action to defend ourselves.''
The dispute is not the first time an auto maker and a tire company have butted heads over a brand name. In 1994, Hankook Tire America Corp.-maker of Aurora-brand tires-sued General Motors Corp. over the use of the Aurora name on some GM Oldsmobile models. That case never went to trial.